Ramblings about flying for fun and profit.

Tag: Cat III ILS Page 1 of 2


I know I’ve only been posting link articles on Fridays – I said I was going to be doing that and didn’t want to go back on my word. I’m in the middle of my second 12-day Europe trip in 30 days and it is really kicking my butt. I guess my body is too used to going to Asia.

I normally sleep well on my Asia trips and feel coherent enough to post once in a while. Most of my nights in Europe, though, have been spent tossing and turning. The majority of my productive sleep has come during the day – when I would normally be asleep at home. When I get a layover back in the U.S. I have been going out to get something to eat and then sleeping for 10-11 hours, waking up and repacking to go to the airport.

Right now my body thinks it is about 3 am and I’m really dragging, but it’s noon here in Milan and I just finished a 9-hour flight from JFK that ended with a Cat III ILS . Temperature inversion fog was blanketing the whole area. It was clear and 59 F (15 C) at 1500’ AGL when we went into the clouds and at ground level it was 32 F (0 C) with no wind and 500’ (150 m) visibility.

Yep, this is really living the exotic life of an international airline pilot. I’m going to bed in hopes that I’ll get enough sleep to be able to go out to dinner and not pass out into my pasta.

Four more days and three more crossings of the Atlantic on this trip and then I’ll get some time off.

Bear with me, I’ll get back to a regular writing schedule soon.

Back and Forth Again

We successfully completed another two crossings of the North Atlantic to complete our six-day trip. Our flight back to Europe was with the same plane with the inoperative APU that had caused us all the problems on the previous crossing. This time, however, things went smoothly. One important factor was that the plane had been plugged into the jetway power cord all night and it had not been raining. My guess on the problem we had with our rainy-night arrival was that the power plug had probably been hanging from the jetway with the pin portion of the plug facing up into the rain. Any moisture spanning the pins of the plug would have been sensed by the aircraft power system and rejected as a short. So even with the cord plugged in and the jetway system saying it was working, the aircraft wouldn’t accept it as a valid source of power.Sunrise over the North Atlantic taken through the aircraft sun shade..

Our engine start at the departure gate followed by the pushback and cross-bleed start went smoothly (it helped having gone through the whole process the previous day) and we were soon on our way again.

I had the first break so, after filling out the flight plan times and checking that all was going well, I left the other two to find their way to Newfoundland and our coast-out fix for the crossing.  The dispatcher had advised us during our flight briefing that we should have a nice smooth flight and that although the weather at our destination was at that time not very good  it was forecast to improve by the end of our eight hour flight time.

The first lie was that the flight would be smooth. So much for me getting any sleep during my break. Light to moderate rocking just doesn’t put me to sleep. The ten hours of sleep that I got the night before probably didn’t help either.  I returned to the cockpit and the captain took his break just as we were crossing the North Atlantic coastline. The crossing was fairly routine with intermittent light turbulence. We had been keeping track of the weather at our destination and discovered the second dispatch lie – the weather wasn’t improving. For a while it even got worse.

The captain came back to his seat and the other first officer went on break as we crossed the Scottish coastline. Once we were in VHF datalink range we were able to get the latest ATIS for our destination. The conditions were holding pretty steady at 100’ scattered, 200’ broken, mist and RVR readings of 350m, 450m, 450m. The visibility requirement to fly a CAT I ILS to the active runway is 550m while the CAT II minimums are 300m. So, the weather was good enough to fly a CAT II approach. We made the decision to brief and fly a CAT III approach in this case because the weather was not improving and could easily drop down below the CAT II minimums by the time we were ready to land. The CAT III minimums for this runway are 75 m which gave us plenty of weather deterioration space.

For CAT III ILS approaches we couple the autopilots to the aircraft and let it fly and land automatically. There is no height above the ground at which we must see the runway. We set an Alert Height into the autoflight system at 100’ AGL measured by the Radio Altimeter. The aircraft gives an aural indication approaching and reaching the alert height. As long as we have not received any autopilot or auto-throttle warnings or equipment capability downgrades by that time we just let the aircraft flare and land on it’s own. We manually reduce the power to idle and deploy the thrust reversers but the airplane does everything else.  In this case the weather was good enough that we saw the runway approach lights a little above the alert height, probably around 125-150’ AGL.

Once the aircraft is on the runway and slowing to a safe taxi speed we have to remember to disconnect the autopilot before trying to exit the runway. The aircraft will resist any attempts to turn since the last thing it was told to do was track the ILS localizer. The next challenge with the low visibility is finding the gate at the terminal. Most air carrier airports that routinely experience these low visibilities have a system in place to help you find your way. The taxiways have centerline lights (green) that illuminate to show you the correct route and signs are placed at the edge of the taxiway to indicate points where you call the ground controller and confirm your position. More airports are now installing ground position radar so that the controllers can follow your progress on the ground.

We had landed on the runway farthest from the terminal so it took us a while to get to our gate. We finally made it, deplaned the passengers and worked our way through the customs and immigration process. Finally it was time for the layover to begin. I’m getting pretty good at that part.

Recurrent Training – Part 1

I took this photo on the last leg of my second trip in March and thought you might like it. A 747-400 painted in the Delta livery went by us somewhere between Edmonton and Winnipeg on the way back from Japan. I believe we were at FL370 and they were at FL350.Boeing 747-400 painted in Delta Airlines livery.

My 2009 recurrent training has been completed and I am back out on the road. I’ll do my best to get on a regular writing schedule again. It’s really nice to have the training sessions completed and to be back flying the real thing.

There have been several articles written on the need for pilots to use some sort of recurrent training to keep their flying skills sharp. CFR 61.56 directs all pilots (with some exceptions) to accomplish a flight review of their knowledge and flying abilities each 24 calendar months while CFR 61.57 specifies other types of recent experience that are required to operate as pilot in command. For those  flying for scheduled airlines,  CFR 121.427 specifies an annual recurrent training program.

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